For Seniors, COVID-19 Brings a New Problem – Loneliness

seniors and covid-19

For many seniors, the COVID-19 pandemic has been a double-edged sword. On one hand, it is crucial to protect the physical health of seniors. On the other hand, the solution – isolation and social distancing – can be just as detrimental as the problem.

Older adults are facing a difficult dilemma. Do they protect their physical health at the cost of their mental health? For most, the answer is simple – yes. Technology presents many opportunities to stay connected and enjoy social interaction. But for others, the answer isn’t as black and white.

How Seniors Have Been Impacted by Coronavirus

Seniors have been disproportionately impacted by the coronavirus. An KFF analysis from July 2020 found that 80% of those who have died from COVID-19 in the U.S. were aged 65 or older. That same analysis found that in states with the largest shares of coronavirus deaths in older adults, there was a disproportionate number of deaths in long-term care facilities.

At the same time, visitation in long-term care facilities, assisted living facilities and hospitals has been severely restricted or even banned.

Social distancing rules and quarantine have inadvertently isolated seniors and increased loneliness. Along with poor mental health, loneliness may increase the risk of heart disease, dementia and stroke.

Human Connection May Play an Important Role in Health

Protecting senior health is of the utmost importance during the pandemic. However, many health experts argue that in protecting their health in the short-term, we may be causing bigger problems in the future.

A study from 2012, which was published in JAMA, found that loneliness in adults increases the risk of losing independence by 59% and death by 45%.

Loneliness can trigger a stress response that leads to inflammation and an immune response. These two effects, according to experts, contributes to the development of chronic diseases.

Isolation and quarantine have forced many seniors to stop engaging in activities that bring meaning and purpose to their lives, such as recreational and communal activities.

No one knows how the pandemic and the isolation it’s caused will impact the health of Americans over the long-term.

Addressing the Problem

To address the needs of seniors during the pandemic, Peter Reed, PhD, director at the Sanford Center for Aging in Reno, has suggested focusing on three key areas:

  • Telehealth
  • Daily essentials
  • Social support

These three core areas became the pillar for the Nevada COVID-19 Aging Network Rapid Response.

  • A telehealth team brought together geriatrics providers, primary care providers and social services to provide integrated care.
  • A daily essentials team brought medication and food to doorsteps.
  • A social support team provided phone calls to seniors twice a week, created a “virtual peer group” for conversations and provided technical assistance to help keep seniors connected with friends and family.

While technology can help seniors get some social interactions, there are challenges. Many older adults who are on tight incomes cannot afford an internet connection. But perhaps the bigger problem – one that cannot be solved with money – is the need for person-to-person interaction.

Developing proper guidelines and procedures to allow for cautious visits may help seniors keep loneliness at bay. The use of hand sanitizer, masks and appropriate social distancing rules among visitors are just a few of the steps medical professionals are calling for in nursing homes.

Understanding the Difference Between Loneliness and Social Isolation

Isolation and loneliness don’t always go hand in hand, and other medical professionals have cautioned against placing all seniors into one basket. Like any other group of people, seniors are incredibly diverse.

Those who are able to afford an internet connection and understand how to use technology have a much greater chance of getting through the pandemic without developing loneliness.

It’s important to understand the difference between loneliness and social isolation. Loneliness is a subjective emotion. It’s a feeling of being disconnected from people. Social isolation, on the other hand, is simply not being in close contact with other people or having close connections.

Many older adults have found that Skype and Zoom calls have helped them stay connected. Experts suggest arranging for regular phone calls and video calls to ensure that seniors get the social interaction they need.

Social isolation isn’t a new problem for seniors. Prior to the pandemic, a nationwide study found that 25% of adults over the age of 65 were socially isolated.

Although the pandemic has exacerbated the problem, it has also motivated many seniors to engage with technology and learn how to use it to stay socially connected to friends and family. 

The long-term effects of social isolation among seniors has yet to be seen, but hopefully, future studies shed some more light on the health consequences of loneliness. Until then, older adults will continue to face the challenge of protecting their health and maintaining that all-important human connection that we all need.

What’s the Best Raised Toilet Seat For the Elderly in 2020?

this way to the bathroom

Traditional toilets are inexpensive and fit well in small spaces, but they’re also uncomfortable and their low heights make it difficult for some people to sit down or stand up. Elongated or raised toilets fix these problems by offering a wider and longer seat that’s more comfortable to sit on. A raised toilet seat greatly reduces the effort needed to stand up from the toilet after use.

If you have arthritis, mobility problems or bad knees, a tall elongated toilet can greatly improve your quality of life. Finding the right raised toilet can be a challenge.

Best Raised Toilet Seat in 2020

Convenient Height Toilet – Our #1 Choice

Convenient Height elongated toilet

The Convenient Height toilet is our top pick for the best elongated toilet you can buy today. It’s designed to be the world’s first 20” toilet bowl, which is the height of a typical chair making this first chair height toilet of it’s kind on the market today.

This height makes it very easy to sit down and stand up without having to deal with elevated riser seats and complicated, fidgety attachments. It looks and acts just like any other toilet, so it complements and looks great in any home bathroom.

Convenient Height is:

  • Manufactured in Massachusetts
  • Delivered quickly and safely
  • 5” taller than the standard toilet height
  • Equipped with an elongated seat for added comfort and room
  • Accepted by the CEC (California Energy Commission)
  • Certified by the Board of Plumbers Gas Fitters

Height isn’t the only thing going for this toilet; it also has a powerful flush. Tall toilets like Convenient Height have a more powerful siphonic flush. All of the contents rush down the drain, allowing gravity and physics to work their magic. After the trapway bend, the route is straight down with no resistance.

Convenient Height tested its high toilet with 3 ping pong tennis balls and other hard items in the bowl – it flushed just fine. It also passed the 1.7lbs. flush test with hard artificial waste.

The dual flush function helps meet the 1.28 gallons-per-flush standard. Lift the flush lever up to use less water (0.9 gallons/flush), or press down for more water (1.28 gallons/flush).

Features and Specs

  • 20 inch toilet bowl height
  • Slow-closing seat
  • Dual flush function
  • High elevation trapway for efficient waste removal
  • Bidet compatible
  • Comes with a slow-close toilet seat
  • Rough-in: 12”
  • 2” trapway/passageway
  • 3-year limited warranty on chinaware and 2-year warranty on all mechanical parts
  • Metal handle

Convenient Height is easy to install. In fact, the installation process is the same as any other standard floor-bolted toilet.

People love the Convenient Height toilet, and it’s easy to see why. Along with an elongated, comfortable seat, this toilet is just the right height for comfort and ease of use.

In our opinion, it’s the best tall toilet out there. It’s sleek, modern and designed for people with mobility issues in mind.


  • Convenient 20” height for easy sitting and standing
  • Dual flushing for water efficiency
  • Tall height and large trapway allow for efficient waste removal
  • Compatible with bidets
  • Quiet, slow-closing seat


  • Height may be too tall for some people

The 20” height of this toilet is what really sets it apart from other elongated toilets, but for short users, it may be too tall. The height is really only an issue for exceptionally short people, and a foot stool could be used for comfort. In our opinion this is the best chair height toilet you can buy in 2020.

Click here to see pricing information on the 20″ Comfort Height toilet

KOHLER K-6669-0 Memoirs Toilet

kohler raised toilet for the elderly

KOHLER’s Memoirs elongated toilet adds extra room and comfort while offering a stylish design. It’s not quite as high as Convenient Height, but it’s still slightly taller than the average toilet at 16.5” from floor to seat.

Along with its stylish design and comfortable height, this toilet also saves money on water each year. A 1.28-gallon flush can save up to 16,500 gallons of water each year compared to a traditional 3.5-gallon toilet.

Features and Specs

  • 16.5” seat height
  • Elongated seat for comfort
  • 1.28 gallons per flush
  • 2-piece toilet
  • EPA WaterSense certified; uses 20% less water than federal standards
  • Made in the USA
  • Concealed 2” trapway for easy cleaning
  • ADA Compliant
  • Rough-in: 12”
  • Colors: Almond, White, Ice Grey, Black Black[RE3] , Sandbar, Dune and Biscuit

The Memoirs toilet has a precision-engineered tank, bowl and trapway that uses gravity to create a strong siphon while flushing. The AquaPiston canister ensures that water flows into the bowl from all sides, which increases flushing effectiveness and power.

The durable canister design also has 90% less exposed seals to minimize the risk of leaks. Flushing is easy, too, thanks to the light-touch canister flush.


  • Comfortable height that’s 1”-2” taller than standard toilets
  • Uses 20% less water for additional savings
  • Easy to clean
  • Flushing is easy and powerful
  • Elongated seat adds comfort


  • Does not come with a toilet seat

The KOHLER Memoirs toilet does not come with a toilet seat. You will need to purchase a seat separately.

That aside, this toilet is at a comfortable height, saves on water costs and is easy to clean.

Click here for more information on the Kohler elongated toilet on Amazon

ThetFord Aqua-Magic V Toilet – Best Raised RV Toilet

Thetford 31680 Aqua-Magic V Toilet

Home toilets should be at a comfortable height, but what about RV toilets? If you’re doing a lot of traveling in your recreational vehicle, it may be uncomfortable to use the standard toilet that came with your RV.

The Aqua-Magic V toilet is designed for RVs, and it offers a classic design with a tall height of 17.5.” Durable plastic construction is lightweight, easy to install and easy to clean. The textured seat lid is resistant to scuffing and designed to shed water. The foot flush system has dual function. Pressing the pedal halfway will add water to the bowl, while pressing it all the way flushes the toilet.

Features and Specs

  • Designed for RVs
  • 17.5” seat height
  • Dimensions: 17” x 15” x 18.5”
  • Lightweight at 9.4 lbs.
  • 2-in-1 flushing system
  • Pedal flushing function
  • Full bowl flush coverage

If you’re traveling in an RV and want to stay comfortable during your travels, the Aqua-Magic V will make it easier to sit down and stand up from the toilet.


  • Tall, comfortable height
  • Lightweight toilet
  • Pedal flushing function
  • Full bowl coverage with flushes
  • Easy installation


  • Leaks can sometimes be a problem

Some people have issues with the Aqua-Magic V toilet leaking. This can be caused by ill-fitting water connections or issues with the throat. Either way, leaks aren’t a common occurrence, but defects can happen with any product that’s mass-produced.

Overall, the Thetford Aqua-Magic V toilet is ideal for anyone who wants a taller, elongated toilet for use in their RVs.

Click here for pricing for the Thetford RV elongated toilet on Amazon

KOHLER Santa Rosa Elongated Toilet

KOHLER’s Santa Rosa elongated toilet comes at a comfortable height and has an elongated seat that gives you some more room while sitting.

The 1.28 gallon-per-flush rating will save on water costs, and the compact design helps ensure that this toilet still fits in a smaller bathroom.

Features and Specs

  • 16.5” toilet height
  • One-piece design
  • 1.28 gallon-per-flush rating
  • 360-degree flushing
  • Flush valve has 3:2 ratio
  • Colors: White, Biscuit, Dune, Almond, Sandbar, Ice Grey and Black Black

The Santa Rosa has a one-piece design which creates a modern look while being easier to clean. The 1.28 gallon-per-flush rating means that you save up to 16,500 gallons of water per year compared to a 3.5-gallon toilet.

Sitting at chair height, this toilet is easy to sit down on and get up from. KOHLER includes a left-hand trip lever and a Quiet-Close seat, so you get everything you need to use this toilet right away.


  • Chair height makes this toilet easier to use
  • Efficient design saves on water costs
  • Compact elongated seat saves on space
  • Powerful flushing


  • Seat isn’t comfortable

The Santa Rosa does come with a toilet seat (other KOHLER toilets don’t), but the seat isn’t comfortable. You would be better off buying a replacement for the standard seat.

With that said, the KOHLER Santa Rosa toilet is easy to flush and has a powerful flushing performance. Its compact design and comfortable height make it easier for this toilet to fit in small spaces without sacrificing on comfort.

Click here for pricing information on the Kohler Santa Rosa raised toilet from Amazon

6 Best Foods to Eat If You Have Arthritis

best foods for arthritis

Arthritis is caused by inflammation of the joints, and it is a condition that anyone can suffer from. You may have one joint impacted, such as your knee or hip, or you may have multiple joints that ache and cause you pain.

Inflammation is often treated with gentle exercises, medication, compression and heat therapy.

However, we also know that there are anti-inflammatory foods that can help combat inflammation. An anti-inflammatory diet takes two main concepts:

  1. Knowing the foods to avoid
  2. Knowing the foods to eat

If you eat the wrong foods, it will only exacerbate the inflammation, causing your arthritis symptoms to worsen. Let’s look at the foods you shouldn’t be eating first before discussing the best foods for arthritis.

What Foods Make Arthritis Worse?

Anyone with arthritis should keep a close eye on the food that they eat. Eating the wrong foods will only cause the inflammation to worsen and can lead to more aches and pains. The foods that can make arthritis worse are:

  • Processed foods. Processed and convenience foods often come in the form of prepackaged meals or baked goods. Tasty and easy to eat, these foods have hydrogenated oils in them, also known as trans fats, that are proven to cause systemic inflammation.
  • Omega-6 fatty acids. Some omega fatty acids are great for you, including the omega-3s which come from fish. The problem is that humans tend to eat a lot of the same foods, and if these foods contain omega-6 fatty acids, they can trigger inflammation. The foods that fall into this category are soy, corn, peanut, sunflower and safflower oils. Eating too many meats can also lead to an overconsumption of omega-6 fatty acids.
  • Sugar. A sweetener that seems to be in everything. Sugar is in chocolate, coffee, soda, breads – virtually everything. When you drink too many sugars, this results in the body producing cytokines, which cause inflammation. Refined sugars aren’t the only sugar you need to worry about. You also have to be cautious of foods that contain maltose, fructose, corn syrup and sucrose.

These are the “big three,” or the foods that are very popular and consumed often. Of course, there are additional foods that can cause inflammation, including:

  • Red meat
  • Fried foods
  • Refined carbs
  • Cheese
  • High-fat dairy
  • Alcohol

Moderation is key with everything you eat, and if you’re able to moderate the foods you eat, you’ll at least contribute less to your inflammation.

Can Diet Improve Arthritis?

An anti-inflammatory diet can help you combat arthritis. It’s important that you eat more anti-inflammatory foods than foods that cause inflammation. The right mix of foods will aid in your body keeping inflammation low.

6 Best Foods for Arthritis

If you’re going to stop the stiffness, pain and swelling in your joints, you’re going to need the right foods in your diet. These foods are very healthy, easy on the digestive system and come loaded with health benefits that go well beyond reducing swelling.

The foods that you should be eating include:

1. Fish

Fatty fish are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which are known for having strong anti-inflammatory effects. You must eat the right types of fish, and you don’t want to prepare your food fried. Baking is better, as a lot of the oils used to fry fish are known for causing inflammation.

The fatty fish that are known for fighting inflammation are:

  • Mackerel
  • Salmon
  • Sardines
  • Trout

One study including 33 people found that eating fatty fish four times a week resulted in lower levels of inflammation-causing compounds in eight weeks.

An additional study, which included the analysis of 17 studies, found that eating fish or taking omega-3 fatty acid supplements led to lower levels of:

  • Pain
  • Morning stiffness

But fish also combats arthritis in another way: Vitamin D. There have been studies that show low levels of Vitamin D may be associated with rheumatoid arthritis.

2. Ginger

Ginger is a great addition to tea and soups. Easy to add into your diet, ginger was the center of a 2001 study that included 261 participants that had osteoarthritis in their knees. The study lasted for six weeks and concluded that 63% of participants saw improvements in their knee pain.

In another study, scientists found that ginger was able to block the production of substances that are known to increase inflammation.

Additional studies had similar results, with ginger being able to reduce or block inflammation from occurring. You can opt to consume ginger in many forms, including:

  • Dried
  • Fresh
  • Powdered

3. Garlic

Garlic is one of the best foods for arthritis, and it adds a punch of flavor to your favorite dish. Cooking with garlic is common, so you’re likely to be using this ingredient in your foods anyway. Garlic was found to have cancer-fighting properties, and it also contains compounds that are known to fight dementia and heart disease.

The anti-inflammatory properties of garlic are going to provide some relief from arthritis.

An additional study on the diet of 1,082 twins found that the twins that routinely ate higher levels of garlic had a reduced risk of osteoarthritis.

4. Broccoli

Broccoli is a nice addition to your diet and is one of the healthiest vegetables you can eat. A well-known reducer of inflammation, broccoli intake has been shown to decrease inflammatory markers in multiple studies.

The vegetable also contains components known to reduce the symptoms of arthritis.

Sulforaphane is found in broccoli and blocks the formation of certain cells known to contribute to rheumatoid arthritis. Studies on humans and mice show a decrease in arthritis when broccoli is eaten.

5. Berries

Berries is one of the best anti-inflammatory foods you can eat. You’ll find a variety of berries that you can eat, including:

  • Blueberries
  • Strawberries
  • Raspberries

A study on over 38,000 women found that inflammation markers in the blood fell 14% after eating just two servings of strawberries per week. Berries of all types are packed with antioxidants and health-boosting properties.

Eat a few servings of berries per week, and you’ll be well on your way to helping reduce the impact of arthritis.

6. Spinach

Spinach is a key food in an anti-inflammatory diet that helps decrease inflammation that arthritis causes. There are numerous studies on the benefit of leafy greens and vegetables showing a reduction in inflammation and the symptoms of arthritis.

Spinach is shown to fight back against inflammation and includes arthritic cartilage cells that not only combat inflammation but also prevent osteoarthritis from progressing.

You can eat any of these foods, just a few times a week, and you’ll find that the symptoms of arthritis will subside. You can also eat grapes, walnuts, olive oil and other anti-inflammatory foods to help against arthritis.

7 Most Common Health Concerns for Seniors

seniors in bed

People are living longer. Modern medicine has pushed the average lifespan up to 71 worldwide, with females living longer than males. Thirty-two countries have an average lifespan of 80 years or longer, with Hong Kong’s overall life expectancy at 84.7 years.

As seniors continue to live longer, they experience chronic conditions and common health concerns that can often be managed.

The most common health concerns for seniors are:

1. Arthritis

The CDC estimates that nearly 50% of seniors suffer from arthritis. The condition causes joint inflammation and also impacts the tissue surrounding the joint. Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis.

There are over 200 conditions that fall under this condition, and rheumatoid arthritis is the most persistent form.

Treatment for arthritis may include:

  • Physical therapy
  • Medication

2. Heart Disease

Heart disease is the leading killer in the United States. There are nearly a half-a-million deaths per year caused by heart disease in the US, and this figure is significantly higher worldwide. Obesity contributes to heart disease, but lack of exercise and poor eating habits are also tied to the condition.

Chronic heart disease impacts 37% of men and 26% of women.

Diet and lifestyle choices are the main contributors to heart disease. A poor diet or smoking are the most common causes of heart disease.

Depending on the underlying factor, doctors may recommend a person with heart disease:

  • Exercise more often
  • Diet to lose weight
  • Change bad eating habits
  • Sleep more

Medications may be prescribed depending on the symptoms associated with a person’s heart disease.

3. Cancer

The second leading cause of death worldwide for people over the age 65 is cancer. Nearly one-third of the people diagnosed with cancer in 2018 will die from the disease. Advancements are helping many seniors live longer with the disease, but the type of cancer will determine the person’s mortality rate.

The key to treating cancer is to detect it early on.

Skin checks, colonoscopies and mammograms are recommended as a person ages. Treatment for cancer may include chemotherapy, medication or surgery. The key to living with cancer is to work with medical professionals that can help a senior manage their cancer.

Treatment options will depend on the type of cancer and the overall health of the senior.

A senior who is already in poor health may not be the prime candidate to undergo chemotherapy or radiation therapy.

4. Respiratory and Lung Disease

Respiratory diseases may not be as prevalent as arthritis or heart disease, but they are still some of the top diseases in terms of senior death. Around 10% of men and 13% of women will have some form of asthma by the time they’re 65.

Serious conditions, such as emphysema, impact roughly 10% of the population, but the main cause of the disease is smoking. Second-hand smoke can also lead to lung or respiratory disease.

The good news is that lung disease can be managed.

A doctor will be able to conduct lung function tests and prescribe medication that will allow most seniors to manage and live with their lung disease.

Serious issues with respiratory disease often occur when a person has pneumonia or other serious infection. If not treated quickly, these two conditions along with lung disease, can lead to hospitalization and even death.

Common respiratory conditions include:

  • COPD
  • Chronic lower respiratory disease
  • Asthma
  • Emphysema
  • Chronic bronchitis

5. Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer’s disease can cause death, but the main concern is loss of mental capacity. The Alzheimer’s Association suggests that 11% of people over the age of 65 will have some form of the disease.

Diagnosis is difficult, and there’s a chance that the percentage of seniors suffering from this condition is higher than forecasted.

Cognitive impairment is the main symptom.

Seniors that suffer from Alzheimer’s will slowly start to lose their:

  • Memory
  • Cognitive abilities

The disease will progressively worsen until the point where the individual can no longer carry out basic tasks. Symptoms often appear when a person is in their mid-60s, and the condition accounts for 60% to 80% of all dementia cases.

Treatment may be able to slow the progression of the disease, but the condition cannot currently be cured.

6. Osteoporosis

Low bone mass occurs in people as young as age 50. When a person ages, bone mass starts to deteriorate and can leave a person disabled, at higher risk of bone breaks or fractures, and can result in a person being less mobile.

Falls become far more serious when a person has osteoporosis.

The condition is common and can last for years, or be lifelong. Seniors often doesn’t realize that they have the condition until they have a fracture or break. When a person has osteoporosis, the bones become weaker and brittle.

Medication can help treat the condition. Weight-bearing exercises will also help you enhance your bone health.

7. Diabetes

Diabetes impacts about 25% of seniors over the age of 65. The condition can be managed with medication and proper diet change, but diabetes still remains a significant risk to seniors. Blood tests and blood sugar level tests can diagnose diabetes.

Treatment and improving your condition means acting swiftly.

Diabetes will require diet changes, and a person can help minimize and even eliminate diabetes with weight loss and a strict diet.

You’re at a higher risk of getting type 2 diabetes if you:

  • Live a sedentary lifestyle
  • Are obese or overweight
  • Consume high levels of alcohol
  • Have high blood pressure
  • Maintain a high carb and high fat diet

Diet and weight loss may be able to help a person with type 2 diabetes lower their blood sugar levels to a point where they no longer need medication. Doctors claim that while there is no cure for the disease, you may be able to live a life without medication if you make these two key changes.

Seniors will have to be more cautious of pneumonia and influenza as they age. Since the immune system may not be as strong as it once was, a senior can become violently ill or even die due to these conditions.

Falls are another major health risk. A slip and fall can lead to:

  • Broken bones
  • Fractures
  • Loss of mobility
  • Head injury
  • Death

Falls become more serious as a person ages. If a hip or leg is broken, the risk of death is also much higher within the first year of the accident.

Staying active and maintaining a healthy lifestyle is key to living a healthy life into your senior years. Abstaining from alcohol and substance abuse can also help.

Exercise and a healthy diet are recommended to keep muscle strength, bone density and help a senior maintain a healthy weight.

Hearing Loss and Seniors: Causes and Treatment Options

cat listening

As we age, our bodies go through several changes. Hearing loss is one of those changes. In fact, hearing loss is one of the most common conditions that affect seniors. About one in three older Americans between 65 and 74 has hearing loss. Nearly half of those over the age of 75 have trouble hearing.

Hearing loss can range from mild to severe, depending on the age and cause. Causes and treatments also vary. Hearing loss can be hereditary, or it can be the result of trauma, disease, medication or long-term exposure to loud sounds.

Understanding Age-Related Hearing Loss

Age-related hearing loss is called presbycusis, and it’s extremely common in older adults. While common, presbycusis can have a significant impact on a person’s life. It can make it more difficult to understand a doctor’s advice, hear phones or doorbells, respond to warnings or hear smoke alarms.

On a more basic level, hearing loss can make it more difficult to enjoy conversations with friends and family, which can lead to feelings of isolation.

Typically, presbycusis affects both ears equally. The onset is gradual, so seniors often don’t realize that they’ve lost some of their ability to hear.

When hearing loss is age-related, symptoms usually start with an inability to hear high-pitched sounds, usually the voices of children or females. Some seniors have difficulty hearing background noises, or are unable to hear others speak clearly.

Age-related hearing may also cause other symptoms, such as:

  • Trouble hearing when in noisy environments
  • Certain sounds seeming too loud
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Trouble differentiating between “s” and “th” sounds
  • Difficulty understanding telephone conversations

Seniors with hearing loss may ask people to repeat themselves, or they may have to turn up the volume on the radio or television louder than normal.

It’s important for seniors to talk to their doctors if they experience any of these symptoms, especially if they come on suddenly. These symptoms could be signs of underlying medical conditions.

Causes of Hearing Loss in Seniors

Age-related hearing loss can be caused by many things, but in most cases, it comes from changes in the inner ear. Some seniors may also develop hearing loss due to changes in the middle ear, or because of complex changes that occur along the nerve pathways between the ear and brain.

Depending on the situation, certain medications and medical conditions can result in hearing loss.

It’s difficult to distinguish between age-related hearing loss and hearing loss caused by other things, such as noise exposure.

Long-term exposure to sounds that are too loud or noise that lasts a long period of time can damage the sensory hair cells in your ear. These hair cells are what allow you to hear. Once they’re damaged, they do not grow back and diminish your ability to hear.

How You Hear

In order to truly understand the causes of hearing loss, you need to understand how you hear.

The ear has three major areas: outer, middle and inner.

  • Sound waves move through the outer ear, and they cause vibrations in the eardrum.
  • The eardrum, along with the three small bones of the middle ear, amplify these vibrations as they move through to the inner ear.
  • From here, the vibrations pass through fluid in the cochlea, which is a small, snail-like structure in the inner ear.

The cochlea has thousands of tiny hairs that are attached to it. These hairs translate sound vibrations into electrical signals, which are transmitted to the brain. The brain then translates these signals into what we perceive as sound.

Causes and Risk Factors of Hearing Loss

We’ve already discussed some common causes of hearing loss in older adults. But now that you have a better understanding of how you hear, you can better understand some other causes of hearing loss. These include:

  • Inner ear damage: One of the most common causes of hearing loss in seniors and those who are exposed to loud noise. Inner ear damage occurs when nerve cells or hairs in the cochlea are damaged. When this occurs, electrical signals aren’t transmitted properly or efficiently. It can be difficult to hear conversations when there’s background noise, or high-pitched tones may sound muffled.
  • Ear infection, tumors or abnormal bone growth: When these affect the outer or middle ear, hearing loss can occur.
  • Earwax build-up: When ears are not properly cleaned, earwax can build up in the ear canal, which prevents the conduction of sound waves. Removing the earwax should restore hearing.
  • Ruptured eardrum: A ruptured eardrum can be caused by sudden pressure changes, loud blasts of noise, infection, or poking the eardrum with an object.

Hearing loss can also be caused by:

  • Poor circulation
  • Diabetes
  • Smoking

There are many factors that can lead to inner ear damage, including:

  • Aging: Degeneration of the inner ear over time.
  • Occupational or loud noises: Jobs where loud noise is a regular part of the working environment, such as construction, farming, factory work. Long-term exposure to loud noise can damage the inner ear.
  • Heredity: Genetics can make certain people more susceptible to inner ear damage from aging or sound.
  • Medications: Certain drugs can damage the inner ear, such as some chemotherapy drugs, sildenafil (Viagra) and some antibiotics. Very high doses of aspirin can cause temporary hearing loss or ringing in the ears.
  • Illness: Some illnesses or diseases can cause hearing loss, including those that result in high fever, such as meningitis. These illnesses can damage the cochlea.

Treatments for Hearing Loss

There are many different treatment options for hearing loss. The right one for you will depend on the severity of your hearing loss.

The most common treatments include:

  • Hearing aids: Electronic instruments that are worn in or behind the ear and amplify sounds. Not all hearing aids are created equal, so you may have to try a few different ones before you find a model that works well for you. Many manufacturers offer free trial periods. Hearing aids are generally not covered by insurance or Medicare, but the diagnostic evaluation for a hearing aid may be covered.
  • Assistive listening devices: These include phone amplifying devices, hearing loop systems, or smartphone apps that are distributed in theaters, places of worship, auditoriums, museums or other venues.
  • Cochlear implants: Small electronic devices that are surgically implanted in the inner ear. They provide a sense of sound to people who are hard-of-hearing or deaf. A cochlear implant may be recommended if your hearing loss is severe.
  • Bone anchored hearing systems: These systems bypass the ear canal and the middle ear. They rely on the body’s natural ability to transfer sound using bone conduction. The device picks up the sound, converts it to vibrations, and transmits those vibrations from your skull bone to your inner ear.

Hearing loss is common in older adults, but that doesn’t mean that you have to suffer in silence. Talk to your doctor about having your hearing tested and exploring your treatment options.